The history of the violin is a trip back in time full of mystery, elegance
and innovation. It is thought that the first bowed instruments were created in
Central Asia within the equestrian cultures, hence the use of horsehair for the
bow and at that time, the strings. The Mongolian and Turkish tribes of Asia used
a fiddle that was two-stringed, was strung with horsehair and often a carved
horse's head adorned the pegbox (the head of the neck where the tuning pegs
are). These nomads carried their fiddles to other lands such as India, China and
the Middle East where they were changed and adapted into other instruments, such
as the rebab, lyra, erhu and ersaj. The trade routes of the silk road lead
through Venice and Genoa, Italy. This is where the violin that we know today
It is thought that the European violin came about through the combination
of different bowed instruments that were brought from the Middle East and the
Byzantine Empire. The first luthiers (violin makers) there probably used the
rebec (which dates from the 10th century), the Byzantine Lyra, and the Arabic
rebab. Jambe de Fer published "Epitome musical" in Lyon in 1556 which is the
first documented description of the violin and includes its tuning.
Andrea Amati was a popular luthier to the French king Charles IX who
ordered Amati to construct 24 violins for him in 1560. In 1555, Amati supposedly
constructed the first documented violin having four strings, but there is some
doubt as to the validity of the date as there are some three string violins
known that are from an earlier date.
As time passed, luthiers made certain changes and adaptations to the
violin. During the 18th century, the neck was changed regarding the angle and
length and more weight was added to the bass bar.
Throughout the history of the violin, there are some famous luthiers that
stand out as creators of
world-renowned instruments. The 16th through the 18th centuries produced the
most famous violin makers. If you've dabbled even a little in the violin arena,
you will recognize some of these names.
Antonio Stradivari and family (1644-1744)
The Guarneri family (1626-1744)
The Amati Family (1500-1740)
Gio Paolo Maggini (1600-1630)
Instruments created by these luthiers are priceless treasures, desired by
performers and collectors alike. On May 16, 2006, one Stradivari violin was
purchased for $3,544,000.00 which is the highest recorded price paid for a
The violin is an instrument rich in heritage and history, let alone a
beautiful piece of workmanship. Knowing a bit about its history invokes images
of nomads in Central Asia sitting around a fire entertaining themselves with
music or nobility dancing with their large wigs and big dresses.
If you're ready to learn, ready to be a violinist, then its on to the next